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Pass interference challenged, upheld in HOF Game

We have history, folks: the first coach's challenge of defensive pass interference in an NFL game.

It came with 3:19 to go in the second quarter of Thursday night's Hall of Fame Game. On first-and-10 from Atlanta's 21-yard line, Falcons quarterback Kurt Benkert launched on a bomb down the near sideline in the direction of receiver Russell Gage. The pass fell incomplete, but Broncos cornerback Linden Stephens was ruled to have interfered with Gage.

After the penalty was announced, Broncos coach Vic Fangio threw the red challenge flag to challenge the call of defensive pass interference on the field.

Referee Walt Anderson went to the video, returned to the field a minute later and ruled that the call would be upheld. First-and-10 for the Falcons at Denver's 36-yard line. One challenge lost for the Broncos.

"I didn't have a great look at it. Obviously it was on the other sideline," Fangio said after the game. "But they did say it stands, so it was pretty close. They didn't say confirmed.

"I'd made the statement that I was going to throw the first challenge flag for a PI, and a couple guys were challenging me to do it there, so I did it."

The whole ordeal was the first time in an NFL game, preseason or regular season, that pass interference was challenged.

The pass interference review rule, instituted for the 2019 season, allows for coaches to challenge a pass interference penalty before the two-minute warning of each half. After that point in each half, pass interference reviews can be initiated by the replay official. The replay official will only stop the game when there is "clear and obvious visual evidence" that a pass interference penalty may or may not have occurred.

Whether the refs got the call right upon review is, well, up for review -- it didn't appear that Stephens made much contact with Gage as the WR pursued the overthrown pass. Regardless, the league crossed a rules Rubicon on Thursday night.

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